It’s my stop on the blog tour for You Can’t Let an Elephant Drive a Racing Car by Patricia Cleveland-Peck and David Tazzyman. This is the fifth book in this laugh-out-loud picture book series and to celebrate publication day, I have a brilliant guest post by Patricia AND a chance for you to win the ENTIRE SERIES in an epic giveaway bundle!
Each book starts with – as the titles suggest – an elephant causing calamity by taking on an unlikely task. What follows is spread-after-spread of rhyming genius brought to life by David’s trademark illustrations. You can read my review of the previous books, You Can’t Take an Elephant on the Bus, You Can’t Let an Elephant Drive a Digger, You Can’t Call an Elephant in an Emergency here as well as my interview with Patricia about You Can’t Take an Elephant on Holiday.
In You Can’t Let an Elephant Drive a Racing Car we get to see animals doing different sports. From a stork in a three-legged race to an octopus playing table tennis!
With a wackier scenario every time you turn the page, this hilarious series just gets better and better! You Can’t Let an Elephant Drive a Racing Car also has a really lovely message reminding us that it’s not all about winning but taking part.
It’s brilliant to see a series continually reinvent itself and bring something fresh to each book. So, now it’s time to hand over to Patricia to share her tips for creating books with series potential…
That J.K. Rowling had the whole sequence of the Harry Potter stories in her mind almost from the very beginning, is well known. She is a meticulous planner and a very skilled plotter and knows far more about her characters and their backgrounds – their whole world in fact – than ever gets into her books. From the outset she envisaged Harry growing up and his adventures growing with him.
It is also possible for a character to simply refuse to stay within the bounds of one book. Conan Doyle killed Sherlock Holmes only for him to rise from the dead and appear in more stories. Alice Walker has described how characters would ‘come for a visit’ and tell her what they want to do and Philip Pullman, in the His Dark Materials trilogy, reports negotiating a deal with his character Mrs Coulter. These authors have almost had a series thrust upon them.
They are lucky; far more series begin with one book which the writer has written without thought of a sequel, let alone a series. It is often the agent or publisher who spots the follow-on potential. In my own case this has happened twice. Many years ago, I wrote a book called The String Family which eventually gave rise to a series of three. The characters were little people made of different fibres: the useful Parcel Strings, the posh Embroidery Silks, the down to earth Binder Twines et al. They lived secretly amongst humans and were always keen to help them. Although I had only envisaged one book it was pointed out that as their alternative world had already been created and peopled by a variety of characters, they could have more than one book’s worth of adventures. I had inadvertently ‘left some things hanging’ as potential series writers are advised to do.
Similarly, when I wrote the first Elephant book – inspired by my small granddaughter saying to my late husband, “Grandpops, you can’t take an elephant on the bus” – I had no idea that this would lead to more books. Now with this new one, You Can’t Let an Elephant Drive a Racing Car, there are five.
In this series, apart from the elephant, most of the animal characters change from book to book and the backgrounds change with each spread. It is therefore the situations which are the linking element throughout the series. That, plus the nannyish authorial voice which is always telling them that they, ‘Can’t do this, or ‘Shouldn’t do that’. Basically, my silly animals – and this is something to which children can relate – always want to do exciting, sometimes outrageous things which they think will be fun or helpful or, in the case of the new book, will bring them glory competing in sporting events. Somehow though, they always get it wrong and cause havoc and get blamed rather than praised. By roughly grouping the situations into categories the animals can repeat their mistakes in different ways that make children laugh.
So, unless you have the skills of a potential J.K. Rowling, I would forget about planning a long series before your first book is accepted. Planting random details for a sequel can be confusing and counterproductive. If this first, stand-alone book sets the pattern for different situations into which you can slip different characters or if you have a strong protagonist that readers will want to meet again or if you create a special world which offers the possibility of lots of different adventures, the potential of a series is already built into your submission.
Thank you so much Patricia! If you would like to win the ENTIRE SERIES in an epic giveaway bundle head over to Twitter or for an extra entry subscribe to my blog here and leave a comment on this post. Good luck!
You Can’t Let an Elephant Drive a Racing Car was published by Bloomsbury, 12 May 2022
Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the blog tour!
I am very grateful to the publisher for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book. This voluntary feature contains my honest opinion.